Behind a dominant second half, the Badgers pulled away to a twenty point victory over McNeese State to improve to 2-1. Aggressive defense opened up easier shots which opened up the scoring for Wisconsin and ultimately made the difference.
In an interesting game, here are five key things to note from the non-conference matchup.
1. Wisconsin finally shoots the ball well… but it took ten quarters for it to happen
Wisconsin started out slow on offense again this game and it seemed like the Badgers were well on their way to another poor shooting night. UW ended the first half 12-27 from the field which is good for a solid 44% but they only went 3-13 from deep. The 3-13 mark is good for 23%.
The Badgers ultimately cleaned things up in the second half and converted on the open looks they were getting. The shots they were missing in the first half were all good looks but they didn’t start to fall until the second half where they came in bunches. To open the second half, Wisconsin could not miss. They started the second half 13-15 from the field and 7-8 from beyond the arc.
The team wasn’t worried about the shooting slump and knew their shooters would ultimately find the bottom of the net.
“I thought we got really good, quality looks in the first half. Like we always harp on, we’ve got a lot of great shooters on this team that put a lot of time in. So we’re all confident in our own shots, but also confident in one another’s shots that they’ll get in,” junior guard Brad Davison said. “Nate (Reuvers), Aleem (Ford) , Tyler (Wahl) , the post players, were very unselfish to get the ball to us quick and on time and when you give shooters on time, and on target passes they’re gonna fall. We just remained confident and we knew they were gonna keep coming.”
Ironically, Wisconsin ended the night missing their last seven threes. If the Badgers can capture the touch they had during the second half, they can be a dangerous team now with shooters all over the floor.
2. Is Micah Potter eligible yet ? Kobe King injury update
After the game, head coach Greg Gard let reporters know that there was no update on Badgers big man Micah Potter. They have been granted a telephonic hearing, but still no word on when it will take place.
His absence was felt more than ever against McNeese State with both bigs Nate Reuvers, and Aleem Ford getting into foul trouble.
It was ruled that Micah Potter would have to sit out the fall semester after already sitting for the entire 2018-19 season. With all these players around the country being granted eligibility, one has to wonder why Potter has yet to be reinstated.
The Badgers were, of course, without Potter for the contest against McNeese State but they were also down starting guard Kobe King who had injured his left leg in Monday’s practice. There is still no timetable for his return but he is improving, per Greg Gard.
The absence of Kobe King will place the likes of Walt McGrory of Tyler Wahl into larger roles. The first game without King available allowed McGrory and Wahl more playing time and they took advantage.
3. Watch out for Walt
Speaking of McGrory…
If there was anybody that stuck out during practices, it was junior guard Walt McGrory who had been continuously making plays and making his presence felt on the scout team.
“Walt McGrory has been catching our attention over the last few weeks, and regardless of the Kobe King injury, I talked to the staff about it, I even talked to Walt about it, I had to find a way to get Walt on the floor because he’s earned that opportunity, and he’s playing really well with the scout team,” head coach Greg Gard said.
With the offense struggling, Walt came in and provided a boost with seven points off the bench in the first half. The 24 minutes he played were the most he’s ever been on the floor and his nine point outing was a career high for the junior.
“Just tried to be ready for the moment and just play solid. Get good shots for our guys, attack and not be timid. Felt good and I felt like I was prepared. It was fun,” McGrory said.
“He’s taken it to us numerous times throughout the year already. We expected him to come up, be confident, play his role. He did a great job tonight. He’s definitely a big reason why we got the win tonight,” Davison said about the way McGrory has developed and gotten ready for the moment.
4. Great nights for Aleem Ford and Brad Davison, but D’Mitrik Trice continues to struggle
McGrory wasn’t the only Badger to have a career night.
Aleem Ford dropped in 16 points despite getting into foul trouble which topped his previous career high of 14 points that he set a year ago against Western Kentucky. Brad Davison, the leading scorer of the night, added 24 points, which was good for his third best scoring output at Wisconsin.
Davison shot the ball well, as he went 7-8 on the night, 3-4 from three point land, and 7-7- from the free throw line. The performance was welcomed as fellow guard, D’Mitrik Trice continues to struggle to find his stroke.
Trice ended the night 3-9, which included a first half in which he had gone 0-5 with all shots coming from beyond the arc. Trice had taken good shots but they simply weren’t falling. The struggles are a stark contrast to the hot start he got off to a year ago when he hit 13 threes in the first three games and combined to score 55 points in those three games.
Through three games this season he has only combined to score 22 points and has made only four threes of twelve attempts from the three point line. The second half was a welcome sight for Trice as he made his first three shots in the half and scored all of his eight points after being held scoreless in the first.
Trice is getting looks he can make but now it’s all about making them, which he has shown he is more than capable of.
5. Gard may have to get creative with his lineups when big men get into foul trouble
Without Potter eligible, the Badgers are down to only two big men they can consistently rely on in Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford. Joe Hedstrom has been placed into a greater role with the necessity of another big, but he still has steps to take and needs to gain experience before he can be thrusted into a consistent role.
If Ford and Reuvers ever get into foul trouble again, the Badgers might be forced into unorthodox, smaller lineups like they put out there today,
At times during the second half, Gard had a lineup out there made up of Brad Davison, Trevor Anderson, Brevin Pritzl, Tyler Wahl and Aleem Ford. McGrory and Trice also got in the mix as Gard was forced to get creative with the lineups he had on the floor. Smaller lineups allow UW to take advantage of the amount of shooters they have and space on the court.
With the Potter suspension still up in the air, new and different lineups will be out there with combinations where there is only one big on the floor.
Next for Wisconsin: Home vs Marquette (2-0) on Sunday, 11/17